Games often base in-game events on real-world celebrations, playing them out within the bounds of their own game world. A live-service game set centuries into the future where religion plays no part in the story will have an annual winter event that looks a lot like Christmas--engaging gamers worldwide even if they don't celebrate the holiday. However, Ramadan and Eid, events observed and celebrated by Muslims–the second largest religious population on the planet--is often left out.
Ramadan is an Islamic lunar month where Muslims fast from dawn to sunset--along with praying, giving to charity, and practicing patience and self-reflection. It's spent with the local and larger Muslim community, where people come together to strengthen their bonds and, at the end of fasts, indulge in food prepared especially for Ramadan. The month ends with a festivity called Eid al-Fitr where the day starts with a prayer and celebratory hugs followed by a day of jubilation.
There have been subtle efforts to include Muslim celebrations in games: Overwatch added Ramadan-themed lantern sprays, Horizon Forbidden West referenced Eid al-Fitr with a light show of lanterns and crescent moons, Animal Crossing had a player-led gathering as Muslims practiced social distancing, and Fortnite announced a worldwide in-game Lantern Fest inspired by Ramadan.
To celebrate Ramadan within the gaming community a bit more, as well as shine a light on how games can recognize one of the most important events in Muslim culture, GameSpot gathered bite-size anecdotes from Muslim game developers who shared what Ramadan means to them in games and their thoughts on implementing Ramadan in games. They offered their perspectives on how the games industry should acknowledge Ramadan--some hope to see Ramadan take place in-game, while others want the game industry to partake in the core practices of Ramadan--but some developers shared memorable moments:
"I would love to see a focus on the core values of Ramadan and other Muslim celebrations, specifically around giving to the needy and connecting to your community. Having sales where proceeds go to help those who need it, hosting charity streams, or giving the gaming community co-operative goals to go after as a whole would be some of the ways I'd love studios to approach it. – Bilal Arshad, Narrative Designer at Respawn
"Personally I feel that it would be great if more games recognized the month of Ramadan! However, I don't think it's just as straightforward as directly implementing Ramadan akin to how other events are generally handled in games, as Ramadan is a month when self-reflection & charity are at the forefront. With that in mind, I think a great starting off point would be to publish a message of the day to players at the start and end of Ramadan; which recognizes it as a normal time of year, especially for Muslims!" -- Husban (Mcdoogleh), Independent Game Developer
"It's hard to communicate to those who have never lived in a Muslim-majority country how festive Ramadan actually is. It's a time for togetherness, even if you're not religious. So we need to communicate the appeal of creating Ramadan-themed events in games, it can be about decorative lights and evening feasts rather than trying to find a way to make NPCs look hungry." -- Kareem Shuman, Technical Dialogue Designer at Bungie
"From a relatively small game community, what Ramadan means is a chance for collaborations and meetups. During Ramadan, our local industry [in Cairo, Egypt] is more eager to expand, and everyone seems to be standing on a common ground." -- Nourhan ElSherief, Senior Game Developer at Instinct Games, Board Member at Global Game Jam
"I've been eagerly waiting for the day when Ramadhan is celebrated in games alongside other holidays! Above all else, Muslims want to feel normal, instead of feeling othered. Having the industry share in our joy and spread it worldwide would help that goal in a big way!" -- Osama Dorias, Senior Partner Relations Manager at Unity
It only started bothering me a few years ago, when I realized Animal Crossing had every holiday in there but not Ramadan. It was a reminder that my holidays are different–something I had always recognized growing up as a Muslim in the Netherlands, but a feeling I had rather avoided in games. I think that it's fine for games not to acknowledge holidays at all, but it feels disappointing to have everything from Mardi Gras and Easter to Chinese New Year and Cherry Blossom Festival in games, but not Ramadan–it's only the biggest event of the year for 2 billion people out there. -- Rami Ismail, Independent Game Developer, Consultant, and Spokesperson
"When people talk about representation in games, I often feel like the discussion is limited to the content and fiction. I didn't realize how much I needed representation in a dev team as well until I had it. No one on my team bats an eye when I'm sharing my check-ins after suhoor. "Ramadan Mubaraks" flood our community discord for the dev team members who fast. This is a space of understanding and empathy, and once we do that among ourselves, we can give our whole hearts to our fictional worlds too. That's Ramadan for me." -- Sara Alfageeh, Creative Director and Co-Founder at One More Multiverse
"During the fasting of Ramadan your brain becomes wired a certain way, and games, being the immersive experiences that they are, play interesting tricks on your tired mind. Many Ramadans ago I was playing Skyrim during the day (these things happen!) and I made a huge stretch of my playtime abstaining myself of food and drink to heal my character out of habit. It's only when I wondered "Hmmm, does a healing spell break my fast or not?" that I snapped out of this autopilot mode. Nothing wakes you up faster than an absurd moral conundrum, right?" -- Dinga Bakaba, Co-Creative Director at Arkane Lyon
"Most of the mainstream games we've seen are either western games or Japanese games, so very rarely do you see any representation of Muslims and Ramadan in games that are not used as the environment of a war-torn map in a shooting game or the enemies you're supposed to kill. It would really mean a lot if we could finally see how Ramadan is actually practiced in games, and also not just by the Arab communities, as there are so many different races who are Muslim, like us Southeast Asians. I'm pretty sure there are similarities but also a very different way of celebrating." -- Saqina Latif, Managing Director at Persona Theory Games
"Ramadan is a beautiful time of year and is often celebrated in different ways depending on the cultural background. Implementing Muslim celebrations in games would be a wonderful way to showcase popular holidays not often depicted in media. And maybe, it will finally give us the opportunity to show off some amazing food from SWANA cultures." -- Son M., Studio Director and Co-Founder of Perfect Garbage
"I'd love to not celebrate Ramadan in games the same consumerist way we do with Christmas for instance. It doesn't fit the spirit of this holy month. Instead, I'd prefer to use the occasion to celebrate the games that feature the various Muslim cultures in a non-oppressive way--sadly, those are too rare. Or I could see something like a Ramadan bundle that would gather money and redistribute it to communities in need across the world." -- Younès Rabii, Indie Developer and Game Researcher
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